Incredible True Stories of Classic Cars Found Abandoned in Barns
It sounds like something out of a movie: a long-neglected barn, dust dancing in the single beam of sunlight that falls on a mysterious, covered shape. With a sudden move, the hero pulls away the tarp to reveal a gorgeous, pristine vehicle. But it's not fiction!
50 Ford Thunderbirds
Our first barn find happened in 2016, in Michigan. As reported by Grand Rapids ABC affiliate WZZM, the cars were brought to the public’s attention when the people who discovered them in a family barn contacted Scott Miedema, an online auctioneer.
In his interview with WZZM, Miedema said, “We met with the family at an offsite restaurant, and they escorted us to their property. Once we got there, we opened the doors to the barn and inside was a plethora of classic cars.” What Miedama found was more than 50 cars, primarily Ford Thunderbirds from the 1950s to ’70s. But there were older vehicles as well, including a 1932 Ford Model B. The cars hadn’t been driven for more than 30 years, but at least they’d been protected from the elements.
North Carolina Gold
Tom Cotter—who has more than one mention in this list—entered a North Carolina barn and discovered vehicles untouched for decades. The find included a BMW 3-Series, a Triumph, a Shelby Cobra 427 and even a Ferrari 275 GTB. It certainly made for one of the most memorable episodes in Hagerty’s Barn Find Hunter video series.
1957 Ford Fairlane 4-door
As mentioned above, Hagerty’s is a great source for barn car stories. One of our favourites came from a reader who described a trip he and his wife took in the summer of 2005. The couple’s daughter was renting a trailer from an elderly man, who also kept a pole barn housing miscellaneous pieces of farm equipment. Wandering through the barn, the family found a mysterious, tarped vehicle.
Once uncovered, they found themselves face to face with a vintage 1957 Ford Fairlane. From the article: “The car was in excellent shape… complete right down to the wheel covers. The engine was a Thunderbird special, 4-barrel carb, dual exhaust and three-speed manual. The two-tone green interior was spectacular. No rips or tears, and the seats were covered with dealer-installed covers.”
The Infamous Portugal Find
In 2014, the automotive corner of the internet was filled with images of a warehouse in Portugal, which appeared to be filled with classic cars. The number of vehicles and their estimated value seemed to vary by report, but were always staggering on both accounts. Eventually automotive journalist Tom Cotter managed to track down the real story. It turns out that the photos had been taken by Mauel Menezes Morais in 2007.
And the warehouse was very real—though the vehicles hadn’t exactly been forgotten. It turns out that they belonged to a car dealer who’d stashed away a number of unusual cars in the ’70s and ’80s. The owner had filled up the warehouse, and wanting to secure it, he actually welded the doors shut! As a result, the cars were dust-covered and neglected, but not quite abandoned.
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1962 Chevrolet Impala
This Barn Finds article documents the discovery and sales prep of a 1962 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport 409. Forever immortalized in the classic Beach Boys song “409”, this Chevy model was the very definition of ’60s-era cruisin’ cool. Adding to its legacy, this specific Impala was purchased in 1989 by legendary drag racer Dale Armstrong.
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1977 Holden Torana A9X
This barn find from down under is especially interesting because of its back story. A native product of Australia, Holden Toranas are likely best known to American audiences from their appearances in the original Mad Max movies. And this particular vehicle was part of a giveaway promotion run by Street Machine magazine. The car was awarded to a lucky reader, who opted to seal it into a barn shed to keep it protected. Thirty years later, it was uncovered and went on to sell for almost half a million dollars at auction.
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From a single pristine car, we go to a discovery of almost two dozen! When De Pere, Wisconsin native Larry Fisette agreed to buy 21 semi trailers that were rumoured to be filled with Chevrolet muscle cars and parts, he had no idea quite what he was getting into. It must have been like a prolonged Christmas morning for a gear-head, as Fisette found himself the owner of a small fleet of Camaros, Chevelles and Corvettes.
The trailers also held enough pieces and parts that he’s in no danger of having to make a supply store run any time soon. The cars and parts had once belonged to a private individual who built up his car and parts collection over decades. Apparently concerned about theft, the owner put everything into semi trailers that were stored end-to-end, forming a barn-like box structure that made it impossible to open them to see what was inside.
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Old and Moldy C1 Corvettes
A vintage car aficionado named Kim Walker brought two much-neglected mid-century Corvettes to light in 2017. The pair were finds that hadn’t been in a barn so much as buried beneath one! In an interview with Super Chevy, Walker said that he bought two C1 Corvettes and a third, more recent, model from the same owner.
It seemed that the owner had parked the cars next to his garage sometime in 1972, after which they were never moved. The vehicles slowly sank into the ground, absorbed by the undergrowth and a thick layer of moss until Walker rescued them and helped find good homes, where new owners began restoring them to glory.
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Citroen CV2 Prototypes
The Citroen may not have the sleek lines and sex appeal of a Corvette, but it does have unique styling and a solid place in automotive history. Even more fascinating is how some Citroen prototypes have been rediscovered.
The original Tres Petite Voiture (TPV) or “very small car” prototypes had a production run of 250 vehicles around 1939. For decades, all but two were believed destroyed during the Nazi occupation of France. But in 1995 three more TPVs were found in a barn on Bureau d’Etudes property in northern France. Further research indicates that Citroen management were aware of their existence in the 1950s but, ignorant of their historical significance, ordered them scrapped. The prototype cars were only preserved through the efforts of company employees, who secreted them away in the barn, where they sat safely for almost another half-century.
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Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe
Among the rarest of rare vehicles, the Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe may hold the title for the greatest barn find in the history of automotive collecting. After being retired from racing, all six of Carroll Shelby’s custom race cars were shipped from the UK to America for resale, but over time only five could be accounted for. Then in 2001, police made a gruesome discovery—a woman who had burned herself alive in a public park. She was Donna O’Hara, and her death kicked off an investigation that would eventually involve multiple divorces, remarriages, rock-n-roll legends, a pair of pet rabbits and, of course, a race car in a barn that was worth four million dollars!
Next, check out these true stories of the strangest things mechanics have found in cars.